Reuben's Home Inspection Blog

Inspecting Bath Tub Overflows

By In Bath Tubs On June 28, 2011


Many years ago, I learned about a bath tub leak that I never caught during my home inspection.  The seller didn’t have any children and didn’t take baths, so they never knew about the problem with the bath tub drain. I did my standard inspection of the bath tub, which included filling the tub up with about four inches of water and then letting it drain. I didn’t find any leaks and never reported a problem.

After the new owners moved in, the first time their children used the bath tub water began leaking through the kitchen ceiling.

Why didn’t I catch that leak?

Bath tub overflowBecause I didn’t test the overflow. The first time the kids took a bath, they filled the water up as high as it would go. When the water hit the overflow, it leaked right through the overflow in to the wall cavity because the overflow wasn’t connected properly. If the overflow drain at the bath tub isn’t connected properly or has a worn out seal, it’s going to leak – sometimes profusely.

That was a real ‘duh’ moment for me. I had never heard of other home inspectors testing the overflow, so I just assumed that doing this was beyond our standards of practice. After hearing about the leak, I realized that this was something that I could have been testing all along, as long as I could view the bath tub drain via an access panel in the wall or floor. I checked my Standards of Practice, and according to 6.1, A, 1, I’m supposed to inspect the plumbing fixtures. What that means and how I do it is pretty much up to me.

From that point on, I started testing bath tub overflow drains, and I’ve since found dozens and dozens of bath tub drains that leak at the overflow. I’ve also found that this test forces me to run a lot of water down the drains, and if the main building drain has a clog, there’s a good chance that I’ll find out about it after running all this water.

The video below shows the worst overflow leak I’ve ever found; this was at a house that was being ‘flipped’. Luckily it was an unfinished basement, so the leaking water didn’t do any damage.

If you want to test your own bath tub overflow, it’s very easy to do. Just fill up your bath tub with water and watch the back side of the overflow when the water starts draining in to it. If it’s not working right, you’ll know.

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections – Email – Minneapolis Home Inspector

        

 

 


About the Author

Reuben

Reuben is a second generation home inspector with a passion for his work. He grew up remodeling homes and learning about carpentry since he was old enough to hold a hammer. Reuben has worked for Structure Tech since it was purchased by Neil in 1997, and is now co-owner of the company. Reuben’s favorite customers are the ones who have a lot of questions; he grew up thinking he was going to be a school teacher because he enjoyed teaching others so much. In a sense, that’s a lot of what home inspections are about, so Reuben truly does what he loves. Reuben has an A.A. degree in liberal arts and has attended most of the Building Inspection Technology classes at North Hennepin Community College. Reuben and his wife are the proud parents of two young childen, Cy Alexander and Lucy Nicole, and have a German Shepherd named Stanley. With two young children Reuben doesn’t have much free time, but he still tries to play disc golf as often as possible during the summer. Reuben lives in Maple Grove, MN. Professional Qualifications / Memberships: *ASHI Certified Inspector *President, ASHI Heartland Chapter *Member, Minnesota Society of Housing Inspectors (MSHI) *Licensed Minneapolis Truth-in-Sale of Housing Evaluator *Licensed Saint Paul Truth-in-Sale of Housing Evaluator *Licensed Maplewood Truth-in-Sale of Housing Evaluator *Licensed Hopkins Truth-in-Housing Evaluator *Licensed Robbinsdale Point of Sale Evaluator *Affiliate Member, Southern Twin Cities Association of Realtors

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